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An indispensable bassist and boundary-pushing films take the spotlight

Plus more events we recommend checking out in Madison, November 28 through December 4 edition.
A photo shows musician Nick Moran standing with an upright bass and smiling, with his face angled a bit downward. Behind him is the open lid of a grand piano and a curtain.
Nick Moran plays December 2 at Arts + Literature Laboratory.

Plus more events we recommend checking out in Madison, November 28 through December 4 edition.

We’re partnering with the wonderful independent email newsletter Madison Minutes to bring you event recommendations every week. Some of these write-ups will appear in Madison Minutes‘ weekly event email, and all of which will appear here.

A few notes: This events roundup is, as before, selective and not comprehensive. Each week, we’ll focus on a handful of things our editors and writers find compelling, and that’s it. We’ll write up a few of them, and just list a few more. It’ll take us a while to get back to full strength with this part of our coverage, because we’ve had so many other exciting, demanding things to work on lately. Please reach out to us with suggestions—and info about your event, as long as you’re able to get it to us a few weeks in advance—at [email protected].

NOVEMBER 30

Mills Folly Microcinema: Seeing Pink, videos by Ariel Teal at Arts + Literature Laboratory. Doors at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. $5.

Film MFA and former instructor at UW-Milwaukee Ariel Teal, who now studies social work in Madison, will appear in person at this Mills Folly Microcinema event. While Teal is bringing three films that have made the rounds at experimental festivals in recent years, they will also be premiering two new works, Seeing and Pink Movie.

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Teal’s dual professional backgrounds have had an impact on their work in the exploration of personal trauma channeled through techniques from found footage and essay film. Difficult and direct as their practice may be, it also has a sort of interior tenderness related to Teal dealing with their own trauma on their own terms. These films aren’t tailor-made for audiences so much as they embody a unique form of therapy to serve as a reminder for others of how their own lives may be fragmented in memory.

As on-screen texts in films like Becoming (2018), Monday Night (2018), and Romantic Getaway (2020) alternate between blunt descriptive statements and cut-up abstractions, Teal shows a poetic control of their words at the sentence-level. Monday Night particularly highlights this, with the language revealing entendres as it circles back on itself in fragments. “I hate that I didn’t see it coming” is shortened to “I hate that I,” which is further simplified to an evocative “I hate.”

This trauma-informed cinema breaks with the clichés one might associate with the idea. Teal reads between the lines of the narratives we create for ourselves. Intertextual readings stand out here, and the filmmaker intuitively understands the way our self-narratives are shaped by our aspirations toward beloved characters and forms (Buffy The Vampire Slayer and sitcom “special episodes” are central to Becoming and Romantic Getaway, respectively).

If the existing work is any indication, viewers can expect further developments in this direction from Teal’s new shorts that explore intersections of culture and the self with bracing clarity. 

(Viewer’s note: the program features flashing lights and printed descriptions of sexual assault.)

—Maxwell Courtright

DECEMBER 1

After Yang at Union South Marquee. 7 p.m. Free.

Kogonada retools futuristic technological conventions into a poignant tale of connection in After Yang (2021), a filmic tone poem, a metaphysical chamber play on the virtues of our differences, between the multicultural and the human and nonhuman.

Based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, the film moves through an unspecified future time when couple Jake and Kyra (Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith) are raising an adopted Chinese daughter, Mika “Mei Mei” (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) with the aid of android or “techno-sapien” Yang (Justin H. Min). Yang’s presence as a surrogate sibling to Mika not only offers peace of mind but fosters both a subliminal and plainspoken bond to her heritage. However, this is momentarily severed when Yang inexplicably shuts down one night, forcing Jake to repair him and familial unity by extension.

From his background in video essays, Kogonada lends the film a soft, appealing precision, the same that infused the architectural contours and paths of 2017’s low-key masterpiece Columbus. Where that film was mindfully fixated on symmetry, After Yang is aglow with geomancy or feng shui principles that are conceptualized in the family’s Joseph Eichler house as a grand tea room and literally harmonized in fragmented song (Mitski’s faithful cover of Lily Chou-Chou’s “Glide”) throughout. The off-screen ring of wind chimes and Aska Matsumiya and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score, suspended in pianissimo, further lend the film the feeling of a visual meditation tape.

After Yang meshes memorial themes explored in other sci-fi dramas like Marjorie Prime (2017) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), as it’s perennially attuned to loss and the struggle between despair and hope. Ultimately, the richly edited tapestry of quotidian, Malickian moments, sporadically captured and later witnessed through clips in first-person perspective from Yang’s memory bank, reveal to the characters their collective strengths and soul—a sort of extension of the Buddhist philosophy on layers of consciousness.

Kudos to WUD Film for providing a space for a belated first-time local theatrical screening. After Yang is also showing on December 3 at 6:30 p.m.

—Grant Phipps

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German Art Students, Jane Hobson at The Bur Oak. Doors at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m. $8 advance, $10 doors.

DECEMBER 2

When You Read This Letter at UW Cinematheque. Doors at 6:30 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. Free.

Excerpt from Jason Fuhrman’s review:

Director Jean-Pierre Melville’s overlooked existential noir melodrama presents a counterpoint to his more popular crime films and period pieces—such as the underworld comedy of manners, Bob Le Flambeur (1956), the elegant character study of an impossibly cool contract killer, Le Samouraï (1967), and the gripping thriller about the French Resistance, Army Of Shadows (1969).

Taken at face value, the film may appear to lack the cool precision, calculated restraint, and mood of contemplative ennui that define Melville’s subsequent output. However, its atmospheric cinematography, stylistic complexity, and haunting ambiguities bring When You Read This Letter (1953) into alignment with the director’s most sophisticated creations.

Filmed largely on location in Cannes, France, with ravishing black-and-white photography by Henri Alekan, it holds up as a vivid panorama of a bygone time and place. The implausible, somewhat bizarre plot of the film—which involves con artists, blackmail, a sadomasochistic novitiate, sexual violence, tragic car accidents, an unsuccessful suicide attempt, grand larceny, and a tangled love triangle—feels surprisingly lurid for what was supposed to be a very “conventional” and “sensible” picture. With its many twists, turns, and abrupt tonal shifts, the narrative sometimes veers toward the surreal.

Kainalu, Javier Reyes, The Earthlings at Majestic. Doors at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m., $18 advance, $20 doors. 

Ever since emerging in 2017 with the Bloom Lagoon EP, multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter Trent Prall has channeled slick psychedelia through his project Kainalu. With a meticulous ear, Prall blends Hawaiian influences, decidedly funky touches, and a yearning to grapple with complex themes, working with a rich palette and giving himself plenty of room to evolve. This hometown show will celebrate the November release of Kainalu’s second full-length album, Ginseng Hourglass

The nine-song project sharpens Prall’s ability to hone in on specific sounds, making every synth patch, drum hit, and breathy vocal phrase feel intentional while giving it all room to flow. The guitar sounds on the title track build from taut, trebly chords to a fuzzy haze, creating a hopeful arc around lyrics that contemplate surrender and control (“Open and listen / The more you resist them / Sands of your ginseng winding down”). The little details and the big questions are always in a conversation here. Loss and doubt leave an especially heavy mark on “Queen Of Wands” and “Zizia,” which also showcase Prall’s gift for capturing truly exquisite bass sounds—bright and plucky but digging in deep, just like the songs themselves.

—Scott Gordon

Evening With Nick Moran and Friends at Arts + Literature Laboratory. Doors at 7:30 p.m., music at 8 p.m.

Madison’s music community has the privilege of experiencing so very much of Nick Moran. The bassist’s work in the local jazz scene alone would be pretty tough to sum up—though the highlights include his role as the gregarious host of the New Breed Jazz Jam, co-founding the brilliant Afro-Latin jazz outfit Golpe Tierra, and his musical bridge-building trips to Cuba. But it’s not often that we get a night solely focused on his accomplished, versatile playing. At this ALL show, Moran will explore a whole spectrum of his musical interests and collaborations in a series of solo pieces, duos, and small groups. “The night will feature música criolla del Peru, bossa nova, straight ahead jazz and jazz standards, reggae, and hip hop,” Moran tells Tone Madison. Featured players will include drummer Wayne Saltzman II, vocalist Michelle Duval, saxophonist/pianist Pawan Benjamin, and his bandmates in the long-running hip-hop outfit dumate. Moran has worked tirelessly on stage and behind the scenes to bring us a lot of excellent music and make it more accessible to local audiences, so it’s good to see him get a chance to be the center of attention. 

—Scott Gordon

Haunted Ones at Crucible. 9 p.m. $5.

Vincent Presley and Lacey Smith’s reissue-focused label Secret Records and their Haunted Ones DJ nights both focus on ferreting out treasures from the weirder corners of post-punk, industrial, and left-field electronic music. This edition of Haunted Ones at Crucible will focus on selections from across the careers of drummer/producer Martin Atkins (who has played with bands including Ministry, Public Image Ltd., and Killing Joke) and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Ogilvie (best-known as the co-founder of Skinny Puppy). The occasion: Secret Records’ November 25 vinyl reissue of Bedside Toxicology, Atkins’ and Ogilvie’s 1998 collaboration under the name Rx. This setup seems like the perfect excuse to play a bunch of great industrial music involving two people who’ve played foundational roles in the genre, and at a venue that couldn’t be a better fit for those sounds.

—Scott Gordon

DECEMBER 4

MMoCA Cinema Winter Matinee: The Cry Of Jazz (1959) and Sapphire (1959). 12 p.m. Free.

Collector / Vōchē at Communication. Doors at 6:30 p.m., music at 7 p.m. $8.

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